The Fritz Pollard Alliance issued a scathing reaction Monday to the NFL’s most recent coaching hires, saying the league’s “abysmal record of hiring people of color in high ranking levels of NFL management” is the result of a “flawed system” that must be changed.
The Alliance, an independent organization that works with the NFL to champion diversity, called on the league to “develop specific diversity action plans to improve diversity in all aspects of management.”
Five teams have filled their head-coaching positions during the past two weeks, but only one was a minority: new Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera. Only three of the past 20 coaching hires were minorities, and there are currently four black head coaches in the league. The 2019 NFL racial and gender report card, issued by the University of Central Florida, said that NFL minority hiring is at its worst in the past 15 years.
According to the Alliance, 70.1% of NFL players are minorities. There is only one black general manager and no black team presidents.
“We are in a battle for social justice,” the statement read. “The current system of hiring and promoting talent into the upper levels of NFL management is a flawed system. We cannot expect fairness if business remains status quo. Our focus must shift from counting emblematic victories each year to calling for measurable initiatives that support sustainable progress.”
The NFL’s Rooney Rule requires every team to interview a qualified minority candidate for head-coaching jobs, but it does not affect the hiring decisions of owners. The Alliance called on the NFL to recognize that devotion to diversity can bring “profound good” to the game and would embrace “a belief that the benefactors who contribute to the business of football should also share in the benefits. It embraces a core belief that the Game should be accessible at every level for those that possess the skills and who have the resources to meet their aspirations.”
Cop slapped by Odell Beckham Jr. no longer pursuing charges
The New Orleans Police Department could withdraw the arrest warrant issued for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as early as this weekend after an officer signed an affidavit saying he did not want to pursue charges, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the developments.
Beckham was potentially facing a misdemeanor charge of simple battery for slapping the buttocks of a Superdome police officer in the LSU locker room after the Tigers’ national championship victory over Clemson on Monday in New Orleans.
Beckham, 27, is from New Orleans and played for LSU.
NOLA.com was the first to report that the officer decided he did not want to press charges.
Video surfaced this week showing Beckham slapping the officer during the locker room celebration. According to records obtained by NOLA.com, the officer had been telling LSU players to put out cigars in the locker room.
According to the law enforcement source, the Superdome officer said in his affidavit that he was a commissioned law officer who chose on his own not to file an arrest. The source expects the NOPD to withdraw the warrant as a result — which would effectively end the case against Beckham. The NOPD has not yet commented on its plans.
No case has been instituted against Beckham because no arrest has been made. And since it is not a felony charge, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office is not involved in the decision at this stage.
“We are aware of the incident and have been in touch with Odell and his representatives on the matter,” the Browns said in a statement issued Thursday. “They are cooperating with the proper authorities to appropriately address the situation.”
Beckham was also captured on video passing out money to several LSU players immediately after the Tigers’ 42-25 victory.
The university’s athletic department issued a statement Wednesday, saying it was aware of video showing “apparent cash” being given to players by Beckham and that it has been in contact with the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference regarding the matter.
What really happened during Deflategate? Five years later, the NFL’s ‘scandal’ aged poorly
Hey, baseball world: We here on the NFL side are sorry to see your game engulfed in a cheating scandal. It’s truly awful to know that the Houston Astros swindled their way to the 2017 World Series title. But I’ve got to laugh and remind you that five years ago today, the NFL produced a scandal that was chess to your checkers.
Deflategate was a Jedi mind trick to your multiplication tables. It was HD digital to your analog. In its zeal to preserve the perception of credible outcomes, the NFL scandalized itself with an investigation that produced far more suspicion, ill will and accusations of impropriety than the original allegations themselves.
At its core, Deflategate suggested that the New England Patriots used an illegal process for lowering the inflation of game footballs at the behest of quarterback Tom Brady, who preferred the grip of softer balls. The NFL thought it found proof during a surprise and unprecedented inflation check at halftime of the 2014 AFC Championship Game, a 45-7 drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts. It then spent upward of $22 million over the course of two years to investigate, litigate and discipline Brady and the organization.
At best, it was a relatively minor rules violation that no rational person would link to the Patriots’ victory two weeks later in Super Bowl XLIX. At worst, Deflategate was a retroactive framing of the league’s most successful franchise and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a clumsy and forgettable endeavor and an unfortunate reminder that the NFL’s standard for discipline demands only that an event was “more probable than not” to have occurred. Brady ultimately served a four-game suspension because the NFL believed he was “generally aware” of the scheme.
The Astros’ cheating scandal has proved tidy by comparison. It began in November, when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers explained how the team used video cameras to steal signs and communicate them to batters. In swift order, nearly everyone involved acknowledged, or at least accepted, the basic veracity of the story. Ten weeks later, baseball suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch and fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum allowed under baseball’s constitution. Astros owner Jim Crane accepted the discipline and promptly fired Luhnow and Hinch. Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora lost his job as manager of the Boston Red Sox, and former Astros player Carlos Beltran agreed to step away from his job as the New York Mets‘ manager.
Additional information could add to the fallout. But if anything, the Astros got off easy for measures that could have substantively contributed to a championship. Crane retained ownership, the franchise kept its World Series title and none of the players involved faced discipline.
The Patriots? They paid dearly for a far less consequential allegation, in part because the NFL considered them repeat cheaters after the 2007 Spygate affair.
In this case, however, the Patriots denied nearly every aspect of the NFL’s allegations, including Brady’s involvement, and took extraordinary steps to defend themselves. That effort included a website to dispute the NFL’s Wells Report on the scandal, one that included multiple scientists pointing out that footballs can deflate naturally based on weather conditions.
The Patriots even submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Brady, who filed a federal lawsuit against the league to overturn his suspension, straddling the line between NFL stakeholder and whistleblower. (Brady got his suspension overturned in 2015 but ultimately lost on appeal and served the punishment in 2016.)
Yet when it was all over, no one could say for sure if Deflategate actually happened. A reasonable person could be left thinking that the investigation itself was the true scandal.
The Wells Report was based largely on a series of text messages from an equipment assistant who referred to himself as “The Deflator,” and the unexplained pregame detour of a locker room attendant who brought the game balls into a bathroom with him before the game. There was no direct evidence that the equipment assistant removed air from the footballs, or that Brady asked him to do it. And the halftime inflation measurement was a rushed and haphazard effort, one that would never pass scientific scrutiny to confirm accuracy.
In the end, it is nothing more than an opinion to suggest that it was “more probable than not” that Deflategate happened. In the terms of advanced statistics, the NFL was saying there was a 51% probability that Deflategate occurred but a 100% necessity to issue discipline. It’s not outlandish to think that someone connected with the Patriots might have tried to help Brady, or that Brady had tacitly accepted that help, but there’s no direct evidence of it.
And when an MIT professor explained that weather conditions could do the same thing, based on the ideal gas law, who could argue? The NFL wouldn’t have known either way, because it did not regularly record pounds-per-square-inch readings to that point. For all we know, football deflation occurred naturally every week.
The ensuing rule changes only further undermined the investigation and punishment. They brought structure to pregame measurements, game ball security and compliance, a tacit acknowledgment that there was little objective basis to the 2014 readings.
The shaky connections and the preposterous conclusions of Deflategate have allowed it to slip quietly from the NFL consciousness. The legacy of Deflategate is the complete and utter lack of one, other than the brief entrance of the ideal gas law into the football lexicon — and as grist to limit the benefit of the doubt in the ongoing investigation into the Patriots’ illegal videotaping last month from the Cincinnati Bengals‘ press box.
The league has never released the results of tests on football air pressure, nor acknowledged a single violation in the years since. While Major League Baseball should be expected to institute major efforts to curb illegal sign-stealing, the NFL has left Deflategate to stand alone as an unintended example of what happens when you jump too soon into a rabbit’s hole. If you’re an angry baseball fan who thinks the game’s leaders haven’t been vigilant enough about potential cases of cheating, well, let us in the NFL world issue this warning: Be careful what you wish for.
Five mostly quiet years later, I’d like to say the NFL learned a lesson. But sometimes a larger scope is necessary. Five years before Deflategate, the NFL’s championship weekend gave us another “gate.” The accusation: New Orleans Saints players stood to gain financially if they could injure Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC Championship Game. The two-year investigation into Bountygate contained so many holes that retired commissioner Paul Tagliabue, brought in to handle appeals and clean up the mess, vacated the discipline of four players and sharply criticized what he called a “contaminated” investigation.
So we’ll reserve judgment on whether the NFL has moved past its phase of incendiary investigations. It could just be on the five-year plan, and if that’s the case, keep your head on a swivel this weekend.
Sean McVay gives up a piece of Rams’ offense, grows as a head coach – Los Angeles Rams Blog
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Coach Sean McVay often sounded like a broken record when he spoke this past season about the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense.
The unit needed to play with more consistency. The players needed to develop a rhythm. The Rams needed to solidify their run game, be less reliant on their passing game.
Although the offense appeared efficient, if not outstanding at times, it ultimately did not perform to standard. The unit’s down season was a major contributing factor in a 9-7 record that failed to earn the Rams a third consecutive playoff berth.
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“Our inconsistency as a team ended up hurting us,” McVay said following the Rams’ elimination from playoff contention in Week 16. “We saw what we were capable of when the things were going well, and we saw how it can look when they’re not going well.”
McVay wasted little time making staff changes following the season. He replaced veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with newcomer Brandon Staley, and hired Kevin O’Connell as offensive coordinator, two moves the team has yet to announce. He remains in search of a new running backs coach and special-teams coordinator after firing Skip Peete and watching John Fassel move on to the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s uncertain whether O’Connell and Staley will make additional changes to their offensive and defensive staffing.
By hiring O’Connell, McVay signaled that he’s aware the offense’s status quo must be improved and that he can’t resolve the issues alone.
That’s not a bad thing.
As head coach, the offense-minded McVay must continue to evolve, focus on the entire team and most of the dealings that surround it — including matters beyond X’s and O’s.
“You get to go through a lot of good and some bad this season,” McVay said as the year came to an end. “I think that’s forced us to learn a lot about ourselves. I know it has for me personally.”
By hiring O’Connell, McVay returns to having an offensive coordinator — a position he went without the past two seasons after current Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur left the post in 2018 to take the same role with the Tennessee Titans, where he could also call plays.
Even as he prepares to delegate offensive game planning, McVay is expected to maintain his role as the playcaller next season. But preparation throughout the week and even in-game adjustments will now include the helpful eye of a dedicated coordinator.
“The one thing, for myself in this role, is that you’re constantly evaluating all the elements that this role entails and you always want to continue to do it at a high level,” McVay said before the season ended, when asked if he was comfortable with the offensive staffing. “The way that you do get better is you surround yourself with people that are better than you. We’ve got a lot of good people here, but I think it’s always continuing to find that good balance of, what does it look like structurally, really, for our organization, in terms of that setup. Want to be able to get the best people here.”
O’Connell, 34, spent the past three seasons as an offensive assistant with the Washington Redskins, where he was hired by Jay Gruden, a champion of McVay when he spent seven seasons climbing the ranks in Washington before the Rams named him head coach in 2017.
A former NFL quarterback, O’Connell’s first NFL gig came in Cleveland, where he coached quarterbacks in 2015. He spent the following season as an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers, and then in 2017 joined the Redskins (a season after McVay departed), where he coached quarterbacks and was promoted after two seasons to offensive coordinator.
Last season, O’Connell took over as the playcaller after Gruden was fired following an 0-5 start. He helped develop rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who demonstrated drastic improvement in his final two starts of the season as the Redskins posted more than 40 points in consecutive losses.
O’Connell departed the Redskins following the season when new coach Ron Rivera hired Scott Turner as offensive coordinator.
With the Rams, O’Connell will be tasked with correcting the course of an offense that last season lost its identity and did not consistently perform to the standard set the previous two seasons.
The reasons for the Rams’ offensive downturn were multifaceted. Several defenses copied the model shown by the Chicago Bears and by the New England Patriots, who shut down the Rams’ offense last season in the Super Bowl.
The offensive line was inexperienced and then injury-riddled. The playcalling relied too much on the arm of quarterback Jared Goff and not enough on the legs of the running backs, as McVay attempted to deploy a three-back rotation.
The Rams’ offense ranked 11th in the NFL in scoring, averaging 24.6 points, a drop-off from the 32.9 points it averaged in 2018 (second). A season after the run game ranked third in the league, rushing for an average of 134.4 yards per game, the average this season plummeted to 93.7 yards, which ranked 26th. Goff boasted a total QBR of 63.7 (10th) last season, but fell to 48.4 (23rd) in 2019.
The hiring of O’Connell and Staley, who is 37, ensures that the Rams will feature the youngest trio of head coach and offensive and defensive coordinators.
As he prepared for his longest offseason since taking over as head coach, McVay expressed confidence about his ability to evaluate and evolve.
“I’m continuing to try and figure out what’s the best rhythm to operate with on a day-to-day basis for our football team,” McVay said. “Because ultimately that is your job, is to make sure that you have a good feel for everything that is going on and then putting your players in a position on all three phases to try to have success week in and week out.”
The move to hire O’Connell proves McVay is growing as a head coach, even if that means yielding some power over his offense.
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